Despite the best efforts of staff and managers, acute staff shortages led to a very restricted regime, says the Swaleside Independent Monitoring Board in its 2021-22 annual report.
The IMB highlights:
- Success of video ‘visits’ scheme when prisoners were not able to have in person visits.
- Success of educational initiatives with 47% more prisoners starting courses than in the previous year.
However, even though Covid restrictions were lifted, staff shortages meant that many aspects of regimes were cut or reduced, and the lack of a key worker scheme reduced overall support for prisoners. This inevitably impacted on prisoners’ mental health. with indicators for violence and self-harm showing an increase.
The Board was also concerned about:
- The disruption caused by the change in population, with an influx of short-term and younger prisoners
- Insufficient body worn cameras for staff to use
IMB Chair, Barry Page, said:
Staff and management are to be congratulated in maintaining a regime for prisoners during a challenging period whilst facing the crisis caused by an acute staff shortage. Inevitably, this shortage has caused prisoners dissatisfaction with the time out of cell severely limited and many activities being curtailed. The limited regime during the pandemic and afterwards continues to take its toll on the mental health of prisoners.”
“However, a first-class service by the education provider resulted in a very high number of in-cell packs for prisoners to further their education and alleviate boredom.
“Use of alcohol and illegal substances remained high as did the finding of weapons. The prison continues to find ways to combat these problems. A scheme for prisoners to work alongside skilled workers is showing good results and several projects have been completed. This will lead to the creation of employment opportunities for prisoners after release.